Middle Eastern Beef Kofta


Chef Javier Alarco, University of Waterloo

Chef Alarco describes koftas as “tasty torpedo-shaped ground beef tubes with a lot of flavour.” These are a hit with students at University of Waterloo. They’re best when grilled on a charcoal barbecue for the most authentic flavour. They can be cooked with a gas grill or a grill pan on the stovetop if charcoal grilling isn’t an option.

This recipe was adapted from Chef Alarco’s original and modified to cook at home.

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Middle Eastern Beef Kofta



2 lb (1 kg) Medium Ground Beef

5 fresh mint leaves, chopped

1 cup (250 mL) finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves (about 1 bunch)

½ cup (125 mL) finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and stems (about ½ bunch)

5 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 onion, finely diced

1 tbsp (15 mL) salt

(7 mL) ground cumin

1 tsp (5 mL) fresh ground pepper

½ tsp (2 mL) crushed coriander seeds

½ tsp (2 mL) EACH sweet paprika, ground turmeric and ground cinnamon

¼ tsp (1 mL) ground allspice

¾ tsp (4 mL) dry harissa spice blend or hot pepper sauce

10 long skewers, soaked


  1. Combine beef, mint, parsley, cilantro, garlic, onion, salt, cumin, pepper, coriander seeds, paprika, turmeric, cinnamon, allspice and harissa in a large bowl; gently mix with a fork (careful not to over-mix).
  2. Scoop about ½ cup (125 mL) of the meat mixture and shape into a cylinder or sausage shape, about 1½ inches (4 cm) thick and thread onto soaked skewer, squeezing meat to mold to the skewer. Place on a baking sheet and repeat with remaining meat mixture.
  3. Grill on closed preheated barbecue over medium-high heat (400°F/200°C) for about 10 minutes, turning twice or more, until digital instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part reads 160°F (71°C). Alternatively, pan-fry over medium-high in a grill pan on the stovetop, in batches as necessary.


Tips: Traditionally cubes of beef, spices and herbs would all be passed through a meat grinder to blend the flavours. Here, we’re using ground beef for simplicity.

The harissa can be quite spicy so you may wish to add less or omit it if you prefer a milder heat level.

Leftover cooked koftas can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Reheat on the grill, in a toaster oven or microwave.

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